Roll under TN for GM creatures



I’ve been thinking a lot after reading a post by @TYMONGER in which he proposed creatures rolling vs the TN. This at first seems like a bad idea because it causes difficult monsters to be incompetent. Yet it seems logical, sometimes monsters WILL have to make rolls of their own, so what are they rolling against? Opposed rolls with players can be an alternative, but there might be another way to make it.

So I realised, what if the monsters have to roll UNDER the TN to get things done? And this just made my whole brain click with hype. The higher the TN, the more difficult it is for the heroes, the easier it is for the monsters, it makes a lot of sense!

I haven’t gone too deep into this, like how would roll modifiers affect monster rolls (maybe mods are added/substracted from the TN), or if monsters can succeed by meeting the TN too. But wanted to share the idea to other lumpy heads to see if it clicks for someone else.

What do you think card folks?

The way of the TAG, monster prep proof of concept
How do you handle Easy and Hard for monsters?

All monsters roll against the target number in Blood and Snow, just like players, and it actually works out fine (amor is soak). In addition, I’ll sometimes have a monster roll against the room target if it is making a check or a specific save that’s not against any one specific player’s Armor. It doesn’t happen often, but that is a tool in my DM’s toolkit when the moment in the fiction calls for it, and those moments work out fine too.

That being said, I love the creative idea of having monsters roll under the target. That’s some creative thinking. What that means, practically, is that monsters will hit a bit more often, and I’m not sure I’m opposed to that. I’ve certainly had cold dice as a DM and watched all my monsters get slaughtered. If you assume a target of 12, that’s a 60-40 split, with no bonuses, of course, and that’s not bad.

Finally, I generally despise roll under systems, but that’s always as a player, because of the weird limbic connection with rolling low. I’d be more likely to use it on the DM side of the equation, though you still lose a little terror when the DM rolls a natural 20. And I mean, come on. That’s the holy grail. But maybe that being a critical fail for a monster won’t feel so bad.

In any event, cool thinking. I love all the recent game mechanic thinking.

Let's talk TN's

Definitely an interesting idea but I certainly would find it jarring during game play to remember to roll under for monsters. Constant back & forth between myself and players would cause a lot of mistakes.

Also I would have to remember to subtract all bonuses to D20 rolls. That is another issue. You can remove all bonuses from monsters to make it easy but then they will all behave the same. That is another downside.

The general thinking is that ROOM TARGET represents the general difficulty of the room for everyone, including the monsters. Giving monsters bigger bonuses is a fine solution.


Ah yes, I see. I felt sold on this because I like rolling under (I love The Black Hack) and I haven’t found a problem using a different approach to rolls than the players. In fact, I mostly dislike systems that use the same rules for players and monsters/NPCs.

I’ve been “testing” this with my SO in runehammer style (pretending to play/run “simulated” encounters lol) and I came up with a couple of things that make me think I can actually use this as my main thing for rolls.

Specifically regarding the bonuses for d20 rolls you mentioned, I removed every stat modifier from monsters, since we use boons and banes! I can write monsters as a collection of TAGs that grant both abilities and boons/banes (they obviously work in reverse for their rolls, boons subtract and banes add). I suddenly found myself not needing to come up with stats for them and that silly little change actually made a HUGE difference on how everything felt. Now my monsters look way more like dungeon world’s monsters! Which is always something that makes me happy. I guess I just don’t like fixed modifiers lol.

Lasers&Feelings is a game (that I played a lot) that uses a similar concept for character stat, since you have just one number (between 2 and 9) that represents the two stats of the game (Lasers and Feelings) and you need to roll a d10, rolling UNDER for Lasers and OVER for Feelings. I felt inspired by this opposing stats concept when thinking about this.

I certainly understand this is not something for everyone (like practically all of my house rules lol) but I totally welcome the discussion, specially when I read how other super cool members of the comunity (like @Alex and you) do their stuffs!

EDIT: wording


The only problem with this is that the monsters have To Hit Bonus… what would you suggest to fix this?


Specifically regarding the bonuses for d20 rolls you mentioned, I removed every stat modifier from monsters, since we use boons and banes! I can write monsters as a collection of TAGs that grant both abilities and boons/banes (they obviously work in reverse for their rolls, boons subtract and banes add).

:point_up: I explain Boons and Bains on THIS thread



So, ‘‘this creature is strong, remove 1d6’’ but it is ‘‘pretty fast too, take off another d6’’. However, ‘‘the ground is wet, add a d6’’.

And then you roll 1d20 + 1d6 = 13 and the TN is 15 so he succeeds? Mm… that’s pretty easy. Makes the monsters really powerful, though!


I’ve started doing this and I love it. Evasive, injury, immunity, flying, etc… makes for flavorful monsters. Sometimes I’ll just pick some random tags and create a monster from them.


Like @Alex, I’m not really a fan of subtracting. It it a little slower than adding and makes me (and many people) pause. That said, it is still a valid way of doing things.

Also what do you mean TAGs granting abilities? Do you mean bonuses like “Sneaky: +3 to stealth rolls”?

@Nimlouth @Shadymutha
Lately I find myself leaning towards TAGS like you for monsters. They make more sense to me and they are certainly more colorful when done that way instead of using stats and attacks only.


For abilities I meant stuff like:

  • Get Over Here: Pulls a NEAR enemy CLOSE.
  • Guts&Glory: Each missing :heart: grants 1d12 extra damage.
  • Firemancer: Resistance to fire, 1d6 fire damage if NEAR at the end of the round.

I also use non-ability tags like:

  • Smelly
  • Giant
  • Leaper

That might or might not add boons/banes and work more through fictional positioning.

Also yeah, substracting IS naturally slower than adding. It’s not a huge deal for me but again, I understand perfectly why someone wouldn’t like it!

EDIT: format


Thanks for the explanation. That’s how I create monsters as well.

Do you also add numerical bonuses/penalties or do you find that TAGS and BOONES/BANES are enough? I suspect the latter is the case.

It’s not that I don’t like subtraction per se, it’s just that I prefer not to do it if I can help it. BOONES/BANES & TAGS do work without rolling under TN and therefore without subtraction, so no problem here.

Rolling under TN is a valid approach. I should try it sometime.


Ok, I’m coming around to liking this idea. Quick question: if you’re rolling under for enemies, how do you handle Armor?


Super new here, but…using tags…is that explained somewhere? I, too, think the idea of using them for monsters sounds super easy and logical. Does the community have a list of shared tags for monsters?


Lol on the group list of Tags…
They are explained in blood n snow. But they are simple. It’s up to the GM or the table.

What does the Tag “pilot” mean? Well all the things a pilot would do, and not be extreme…don’t require rolls. But to perform a perfect bombing run does require a roll.

So tags can take the place of many things that ICRPG does not typically have…skills, profession, training, affiliations, tendencies…

But you just need the ones you need for your table. It’s a catch all…but you should not let it not be fun for the table.


I normally use armor as damage reduction and players rolls to defend, so I don’t take it into account. BUT! I have an ongoing 5e campaign that recently converted to ICRPG and we use armor class. What I do is start the armor value from 0 instead of 10 (so a normal 15 armor would be 5, which is actually easier to explain for new players btw) and I ADD player armor to monsters’ rolls.

TN: 12
GM: The orc swings his axe at you. What’s your armor?
Player: I have 3 armor.
GM: Rolls… So it’s a 10 +3 armor… the orc hits but your thick mail absorbs it!
Player: Well spent coin I guess lol.


@Paxx explained them pretty well actually.

I believe hank borrowed the idea of weapon TAGs from dungeon world and then the community started roll around and get crazy with them. Blood and Snow then featured player TAGs too.

In general therms,TAGs can but not always will have mechanics attached to them. The way I use them makes them work both with the fiction and with their own mechanics.

For example, let’s say I want to create an Ice Troll monster, then I get some illustration to inspire myself and write:

Ice Troll
-Silent Creep
-Ice Touch

And then I would add hearts and damage to it, and if I feel more inspired, get some mechanics for some of the tags and that’s it.

During gameplay, a TAG can also be used in the fiction to add flavor or flat out manipulate rolls too:

“The troll is a -Loner, so you’ll roll HARD if trying to persuade him”.

“You have the -Handsome TAG, so the waitress is instantly crushing on you.”



Can you provide a roll sequence as an example for me.

TN is 12

Player 1 armor =4
Player 2 armor =0
Player 3 armor =7

Monster is a drake with 2 hearts and + 4 to all rolls.

How does the drake hit each player? What roll is required?

What would just hit and what would just miss?

I’m guessing to hit player 3 the drake requires a 7 or less to hit.

To hit player 2 the drake requires a roll of 14 or less to hit?

To hit player 1 the drake requires roll of 10 or less to hit?

Players still require 12 or more, to hit the drake.


We where talking about getting rid of monster’s stats and using roll under TN for them, so you just add player armor to your GM attack roll. The idea is that the TN scales how powerful the monsters are (I would use a 15+ for that drake)

TN: 12
Player 1: 4 armor
Player 2: 0 armor
Player 3: 7 armor

So the drakeattacks and needs to roll less than the TN while adding player armor to his rolls (I usually use equal or less than TN but this is personal preference, it is not mathematically perfect)

Player 1: Dragon rolls 3 +4 armor, 7 hit.
Player 2: Dragon rolls 13 +0 armor, 13 doesn’t hit.
Player 3: Dragon rolls 11 +7 armor, 18 doesn’t hit.

Players still need to meet or beat 12 to hit.

I hope that’s clear enough!


Got it, thanks! Makes sense. I can see it’s value. Specially as TN goes up…the GM controlled creature improve as well.

So TN 14 creatures hit more often than TN 12 creatures.


Yeah. This makes doing Target damage more important. I can see players looking for creative ways to get an upper hand in the encounter.

Archer: “I want to shoot a few arrows through the webbing of the drake’s wings so it can’t fly as well. Could that lower the Target?”
GM: “Sure!”